Why haven't I thrown out my iPhone box?

January 23, 2023
Posted by
Leroy Soeterboek

In 1886, Tiffany & co introduced the Tiffany Setting. A solitaire diamond held above a band by six platinum prongs. The New York jewellery maker’s diamond engagement ring proved incredibly popular with the loved up couples of the time - the box it came in proved to be just as sought after. People would come into the store trying to buy the elegant blue and white boxes only to be turned away. The only way to get a box was if it was given to you for free - with a purchased piece of jewellery inside. 

While Charles Tiffany’s brand guardianship aimed to protect the reputation and exclusivity of his products, he had actually tapped into a powerful psychological concept: the Halo Effect.

The Halo Effect describes how people will often take an initial, positive impression of something and then extend it to other unrelated areas. An example might be when a sales person shows up in a fancy car and a sharp suit. Most people will assume they’re really good at their job - how else could they afford that Mercedes? 

In psychology, the Halo Effect is what they call a heuristic, which is like a mental shortcut our brain takes when we are forming an opinion on a person, product, place or brand - anything really. 

The concept was originally noted in 1907 by an American psychologist named Frederick L. Wells, however it wasn't proven with empirical evidence until 1920 by Edward Thorndike. Thorndike proved the presence of this cognitive bias by running a study with a unit of the armed forces. The psychologist asked two commanding officers to evaluate their soldiers in terms of their physical qualities such as neatness, voice, physique and energy. Then he asked them to evaluate the same soldiers on their intellect, leadership skills and personal qualities. The study showed that attractiveness or traditionally desirable physical attributes had a very notable correlation with the other qualities - if they were a strong, good looking person then they were thought to be a good soldier across the board. The same became apparent if the soldier had a negative physical attribute. 

A cognitive bias is a pattern in perception, interpretation or judgement that leads to someone misunderstanding something about a person, place, thing or product that leads to a poor or irrational choice. 

From a brand and marketing perspective, the Halo Effect is an extremely powerful tool that has helped to build some of the biggest brands in the world. Like, how many empty iPhone boxes do you have in your junk drawer at home?

And while the upside of building a brand that radiates unchecked assumptions of quality and care is clear for everyone to see (undying brand loyalty, higher price points, etc) the cognitive bias at play here can also present itself in a negative way too. A poor product or customer experience can completely undermine a business’s hard work. 

This is why it is so important to consider all aspects of your brand experience, from the first touchpoint to the final - if you do it the right way, there may never be a last impression, only a lasting one. Spend the time to think about your customer experience, and how each and everything your customers come into contact with is in fact part of your brand.

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